by Steven Campo | Feb 21, 2014
I am the descendent of Sicilians from both my father and mother’s side of the family. I grew up in a small town in Louisiana that had a large Sicilian population throughout the 1900’s. We were raised to be proud of our Sicilian heritage. Our grandparents spoke English, but often spoke to us in Sicilian. Hearing nonna say “veni cca figghiu di lu me cori”, always brought a smile to my face. To see a bowl of golden brown sfinci sprinkled with powdered sugar was a sight I always looked forward to seeing. My favorite time was during Easter when they made pupa cu l’ova. Those are great memories. Unfortunately, as our grandparents passed away, so did the sounds of the Sicilian language and other pieces of the culture.
When I was in my early forties, I decided to explore my Sicilian origin more thoroughly. I wanted to start with the language because I desired to hear the phrases my grandparents once spoke. I began my search on the internet for anything related to the Sicilian language. Many things that I found were rather disheartening. I read one article that said the Sicilian language was on the road to extinction. Another article that I read discouraged the reader from even learning the Sicilian language. The article asked the question, “Why learn a language spoken by so few people”?
Nevertheless, my search continued, and I found a Sicilian poet by the name of Alessio Patti. He made videos of his poetry and posted them on youtube. The first poem I listened to was called, “Non si po scriviri lu duluri”. It was a poem that he wrote for a friend of his that had died. I was absolutely mesmerized. The beauty and passion of that poem spoken in the Sicilian language made me wonder how in the world this marvelous language could be going extinct. I was so delighted that I had to get in touch with this man, and let him know how much I enjoyed hearing the Sicilian language. I did get in touch with Alessio, and we have been good friends ever since.
Here is an interview I had with the Sicilian poet Alessio Patti:
• Alessio, what would you like to accomplish with your poetry?
With my poetry, I intend to return to man the gift that God gave me to present to others. Poetry is the substance of God, of which we are not owners but only distributors. God is the only poet, there are no others. Who defines himself a great poet, and owner of his verses is certainly a liar! In poetic Sicilian language I try to explain the ways that these spiritual gifts fill my soul.
• Alessio, where does the inspiration come from to write poetry?
Inspiration is a reminder of the Profound… I hear “the voice” that attracts me. Then I walk inside myself to discover it, and then sit humble next to it waiting for it to manifest its love. From this experience I always accumulate verses; it is a way to recount the meeting between the finite and the transcendent. The middle way between the two is in fact the soul. The transcendent or the unknowable, descends, arrives and becomes knowledge, and the limited knowledge of man, climbing upwards, meets the transcendent and becomes part of a higher knowledge. Of this magnificent encounter the verses were the only witnesses.
• What advice would you give to aspiring poets?
The advice to give aspiring poets is not to imitate any of those known, but be guided by the spiritual voice that instructs the soul. Listen to what the Profound tells us, and pour out the accepted truth in simple words that everyone can understand. The magic does not come from sophistication or technicalities, but from the simple and pure. Those who choose this path will then have the opportunity to be a living filter of the only Poet who, in spirit, creates poetry and love.
• Why do some poets become famous only after death?
Poets are usually misunderstood, because they speak of transcendence. Few understand the language of the soul, and those who are unable fight with the senses. Then, when a poet dies, his verses are probed one by one, and it’s discovered that when the artist was alive he hindered himself and did not serve any purpose, but if the poetry was true, it will endure even after the death of its author. It’s like this “li veri pueti nàsciunu a li vita sulu doppu chi mòrunu” di Alessio Patti. Translated; “True poets are born only after they have died”.